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Pipeline fighters protest eminent domain and the Bakken, also known as Dakota Access, pipeline in Iowa. (Photo: Iowa99Media)

Dakota Access Opposition Ramps Up in Iowa After Judge Rejects Restraining Order

Activists planning nonviolent protest at pipeline construction site on Wednesday

Lauren McCauley

Update 12:22pm EDT:

An Indigenous activist in North Dakota on Wednesday halted pipeline construction after locking himself to heavy machinery. According to reporting on the scene, police have ordered protesters to stay 100 yards away while they worked to free the man.


An attempt by the Dakota Access Pipeline company to silence protests was foiled Tuesday after a federal judge in Des Moines, Iowa denied its request for a temporary restraining order.

For two years, activists in Iowa have been demonstrating against the highly-controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry as much as 570,000 barrels per day of Bakken crude from North Dakota to a transfer station in Illinois. All along the 1,172-mile route, resistance to the project has grown fierce as landowners, Indigenous people, farmers, and environmentalists have banded together in opposition.

Dakota Access, a subsidiary of the Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, alleged in its petition that planned acts of civil disobedience by local resistance groups Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) and Bold Iowa "represent a risk to the physical safety of Dakota Access employees and representatives, and the protesters."

The activists, who are planning a peaceful, nonviolent demonstration at a construction site Wednesday, said that the suit was just another attempt by the pipeline company to "bully" the opposition.

"We have been in this pipeline fight for over two years, and have vowed to use all of the tools available to us in our fight," said Adam Mason, state policy director at Iowa CCI. "We will not be deterred or bullied by Big Oil."

"Citizens are protecting property rights and water supplies from a risky and unnecessary pipeline," said Jane Kleeb, president of Bold Alliance, in a statement ahead of the ruling. "We live in the United States where Big Oil does not get to restrict our freedom of speech or the right to assemble. Basic American rights."

Judge Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger agreed, rejecting the company's motion on the grounds that "Dakota Access was seeking a 'extraordinary and drastic remedy' that should only be issued in exceptional circumstances," the Des Moines Register reported. However, according to the Register, Ebinger did schedule a hearing for Friday "on a request by Dakota Access to determine whether a preliminary injunction should be ordered to restrict the activists."

Dakota Access similarly tried to block demonstrators in North Dakota, where an ongoing protest by the Standing Rock Sioux tribe against the pipeline has expanded to thousands of people.

Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II wrote in an New York Times op-ed that the overblown reaction on the part of the oil giant, as well as North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple—who declared a state of emergency over the protests—violated civil and human rights and amounted to the local government "act[ing] as the armed enforcement for corporate interests."

And despite these threats, in both Iowa and North Dakota, protesters remain defiant.

"We are at the point where men and women of conscience must step forward," states the Bakken Pipeline Pledge of Resistance, which 1450 people have signed thus far, vowing to put their bodies on the line to stop the project.

"If built, the Bakken Pipeline will produce carbon emissions equivalent to fourteen new coal-fired power plants. If the pipeline breaks and leaks (it's really just a matter of time), it will occur in the Mississippi River watershed, which is the water lifeline for a huge portion of our country," the pledge states. "This decision affects all of us, wherever we live."

"In the tradition of other great American struggles for freedom," it continues, "we are asking people to stand for what we believe is right through acts of nonviolent civil disobedience to stop the Bakken Pipeline."

Meanwhile, another federal judge is expected to issue a ruling by Sept. 9 as to whether or not the Army Corps of Engineers violated the Standing Rock Sioux's treaty rights in approving the pipeline.

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